August 13th, 2010

oooh, ooh, look, it is foolish!

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=%2Fg%2Fa%2F2010%2F08%2F11%2Fnotes081110.DTL

That is some ugly URL. Whatever. It is the Mark Morford column of August 11.

Morford uses a lot of words. He seems to like them. Including unicorn. He is describing an event in Las Vegas involving a bunch of advertising people, trying to figure out how to Save The Book.

"I was first sort of amazed to learn just how few of these otherwise smart and well-informed folk had much of an idea how the book business works, from imprints to distribution, contracts to cover art. No one really knew how books get made, who makes which decisions, how little control authors have, what we're expected to do nowadays, and so on."

If you are surprised that someone who works in advertising doesn't know how something works -- really, how _anything at all_ works -- then you have not been paying attention. Possibly because of all language-abuse you are engaging in.

"few also seemed to have much sense of just how bad it's become for books and authors, how much corporate consolidation has occurred, how increasingly extinct is the "undiscovered author" or killer book deal, how few writers can make a living at their craft anymore."

Not sure where to go with this, other than that the broke author having to work a day job to pay the bills is a really, really, really ancient idea. Also, the author going unacclaimed until death? Long-wearing as well. I'd like to see Mr. Morford convince me it's genuinely worse now than it has ever been before.

A little side note: this may have pissed me off.

"How many new authors can you name in the past few years whose books aren't lame knockoffs of cheeseball teen vampires, boy wizards, or dead old men of the Illuminati? It's ugly out there."

I wonder how he would react if I reeled off a bunch of really great romance novelists? Or non-fiction authors? Hmmmm? Think he'd say they don't count either? Thinking maybe this guy is another litcrit snob? That's what I'm thinking.

The ad guys did not propose to Save The Book by switching from Dead Wood to something else. From my perspective, this would be because ad guys are idiots. However, apparently Morford is living in some alternate universe, in which:

"It's because the book -- the printed one, wood pulp and ink, glue and sweat and blood -- remains a nearly perfect product."

Really?

"Think about it. It hasn't been fundamentally improved upon for 1,000 years."

Gutenberg must not count.

"Few other products in the world match it for reach and purity of function. It's cheap, transportable, sharable."

Not manuscripts in 1010, they weren't. Not cheap at all. Transportable, sure. Sharable, definitely. But _not_ cheap. "It's immersive, transformative, offers universal and timeless appeal", well, as long as you know how to read that particular language in that particular script, "across all nationalities, religions, races, creeds, politics, classes, education levels." Uhhhhh... "No other product you can name matches the book across the efficiency/cost/intimacy/experience matrix. It's flawless."

I'm always amazed when someone can get the error rate in a sentence close to the number of words in a sentence. It takes work to do that.

I think if Morford could quit talking about sex and proxies for sex (strippers, Hitachi Magic Wands, unicorns), he might be able to pay attention enough to notice that the whole kindle thing was intended to address exactly the problem that concerns him:

"The big question is not if we can reinvent it, but rather, if our appetites have become too frenzied and distracted to save it."

But I'm not sure _anything_ can save a man who can go to Vegas and get distracted by winning $100 at blackjack. And Christy Turlington.